There really has been a book brewing all this time. Concierge Service, featuring Joshua Hannes, concierge in one of New York City’s premier hotels and Craig Ridley, the guest in the penthouse suit, is in the final stages of launching.
I should give you a taste, shouldn’t I? Here’s our two guys, sitting down together for the first time. Craig’s in New York on business, has chased his CFO out of the penthouse suite for being a pain in the ass, and plans to test her assertion that the concierge desk could provide anything he desires. So he’s called downstairs for a “rent-a-friend.”
The rap at the door slightly after eleven jerked Craig away from the e-book he was reading with indifferent attention; if this was a thriller, he wasn’t nearly as thrilled by the text as he was by the interruption.
Perhaps he should have peeked through the peephole, but anyone who knocked on this door had to use the passcard in the elevator, soooo… He opened the door.
The vision he’d seen coming out of the suite earlier greeted him. Brown eyes under full brows, a perfectly straight nose over a sunny smile, wide shoulders dressed in a decent suit—the same label as the one Craig had treated himself to when he’d sold his first company.
He jerked his gaze back to his visitor’s face—a laser dissection of the visitor’s charms was just not okay. Not when Craig made it abundantly clear he wanted nothing but company. The guy was worth looking at—and an unknown quantity as to what kind of person he’d prove to be.
Ten seconds of admiration for the view. Would this stranger last longer once words started coming out of his mouth?
“I’m Joshua Hannes. You rang?” The smile faltered for a scant second.
Craig found his voice and the memory of why he needed it. “I’m Craig Ridley.” Oh, that was stupid, of course rent-a-friend would know that, but… “Didn’t I see you earlier?”
“You did—I arranged your dinner. Now I’m back. If that’s okay.” Joshua remained in the doorway, a bag dangling from his fingertips.
Oh, right, Craig was keeping him standing. He ushered his guest in. “Hope you brought the Scrabble board, or that there’s one tucked away in some yet to be explored corner here.”
“I don’t think so, but I found us a deck of cards. We could play gin rummy, or War, or Go Fish.” Joshua pulled the sealed deck from his bag.
“Definitely more social than watching a movie.” Craig slit the cellophane wrapper to shake out the cards. “Or we could talk politics and possibly have our first fight, or compare weight lifting routines if we both lifted… Sorry, I didn’t even think about going downstairs to the gym to burn off some energy—I’m exhausted but my body still swears it’s two hours too early to go to bed.”
“No problem.” His visitor’s smile looked genuine. “I brought some Izzes.” He found coasters in the sideboard inlaid with enough exotic woods to endanger an entire rain forest, and two cut crystal tumblers, which he filled with ice from a minifridge disguised as more finely milled cabinetry. “Pomegranate, blackberry, or peach?”
Craig studied a maroon can, searching for symbols. Packaging had betrayed him before. “Is this kosher?”
Joshua examined his own can. “I don’t think it’s certified, but it’s vegan. Is that close enough?”
“Sure is. Blackberry sounds good.” He poured and offered to clink his glass against Joshua’s peach drink. “To new friends.”
Josh gave him that look again, a nanosecond of I don’t understand. “L’chaim?”
“La kayim,” Craig agreed. Whatever that meant. Probably New-Yorkese. That gravelly consonant might just be another regional thing. Craig sipped again, the fruity bubbles dancing on his tongue.
Nice choice—Craig could appreciate the subtlety of not bringing wine or liquor. This wasn’t a date. What the hell did they do next? Cards, okay—another nice choice. Joshua hadn’t mentioned poker. Not when that could go lascivious. Not that Craig would mind in the least demanding shirts and trousers as forfeit.
Stop. That. One more stray thought and he’d have to adjust himself. The thin sweats he’d changed into for lounging wouldn’t hide a thing. Besides, where the hell had that thought come from? That was twice now. His interest hadn’t been piqued like this in years.
“So, gin rummy?” Craig offered.
“You’re on.” Joshua produced a pad and pen from a work of art generally shaped like a desk.
They sorted out their versions of the rules into mutual agreement, and Craig dealt out the cards. “We need some stakes.”
“Money?” Joshua stilled. “Or…?”
Damn it—even the small things worked against this rent-a-friend business. That “or” had to be exactly why his companion hadn’t mentioned poker. He hadn’t removed his suit coat, only pulling the knot of his tie away from his throat and undoing the top button.
Craig liked the lack of assumptions. What else could he like about Joshua? “Lose a round, answer a question, is that okay?” Damn it, that could go bad again fast—Joshua stopped sorting his hand. “Getting to know you kind of questions, nothing super-personal.”
“That works.” Joshua relaxed again. “Prepare to lose.”
“You can try,” Craig shot back, and took the top card from the stack.
The rest will be along shortly!